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Lake Como Clubhouse: Then and now



CLUBHOUSE01
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PART OF THE remodeling was replacing the floor of the clubhouse. This photo, submitted by Debbie Bromeland, was taken in April. Architect Bill Henry, of Kehoe & Associates, served on the $402,431 project.

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September 03, 2013 | 11:13 AM
GENEVA — The outside of Lake Como Clubhouse hasn't changed much since it was built in 1929. 

But what about the people who use it? That became a conversation topic Aug. 27, when Shirley Gorz, Debbie Bromeland and Eleanor Koval met in the bar room of the clubhouse, next to a table full of Lake Como Beach Property Owners Association yearbooks from the '20s to the present.

They met to discuss the recently completed clubhouse remodeling project and the history of the building. There was an open house Saturday to show off the place.

"In our day, for us to come down here to the clubhouse and do things was the norm," said Bromeland, one of the association's five directors and its interim treasurer. "For kids now who come down here, they just ask if we have wi-fi."

Gorz said the association, of which she's vice president, is like it's own community. She said in the 1920s, people from Chicago came to the Lake Como area and created the association. They wanted a place to not only hold social gatherings, but to conduct business meetings without always having to travel back to the Windy City.

"It was a social club," Gorz said of the association.

Today, though, she said despite sending notices out and the annual president's newsletter, people act as if they don't know there's a Lake Como Beach Property Owners Association.

So why is it Gorz said people don't participate as much anymore?

At first, Bromeland said apathy, but "apathy is probably too strong a word" to describe it.

"I think it's generational," she said.

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ELEANOR KOVAL, formerly Wolf, 1948 beauty queen contest winner, appointed at a Lake Como Beach Property Owners Association dance. The victory is commemorated in the association's yearbook. Koval is pointing to her picture. (click for larger version)
Koval agreed, saying they "really don't do what they used to" these days. For example, at the dances, they used to hold beauty queen contests.

At a dance in 1948, Koval — formerly Wolf — won.

"Every year, they had four dances here and … they called it a beauty queen contest," she said. "It was held at the dance (and) was more or less kind of a fun thing. There was never any duties with it or anything."

Koval said the girls would line up in front of the crowd, someone with a microphone would hold their hand over a girl's head and the person who received the most applause became the beauty queen. "I never entered any other contest," she said. "I wouldn't have entered that one if my friends hadn't pushed me into it."

Gorz said Koval is very pretty.

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"They made the right choice, Eleanor," said Bromeland.

What did a beauty queen get in 1948?

"The prize was a $5 bill," Koval said.

Gorz said association elections and any of its dances "used to be a big deal." She said when there were children's dances, the kids didn't just stand there, holding up the clubhouse walls.

"Nobody dances anymore," she said.

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But perhaps it was a good thing those kids were wallflowers.

One of the things that was discovered during the clubhouse remodeling project is the south wall of the clubhouse — where the main entrance is located — wasn't sitting on the foundation.

In a phone interview Monday, Association Director Allen Searles said originally, the project was going to cost $375,010, but it became $402,431.

That's because during the project, problems such as the one with the south wall came to light.

"When you do any remodeling project and you start opening up the walls, sometimes you discover other problems," he said.

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Gorz said the project also involved replacing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system; redoing the kitchen and hallways; redoing the stucco outside the clubhouse; upgrading utilities; and replacing the floor boards and the timbers underneath them.

"When they went down there, they found out that the other (floor) beams were rotting," said Gorz.

She said the clubhouse "wasn't to the point where they were going to condemn it, but if we didn't do something about it soon, they were probably going to."

Looking back (and forward)

According to the yearbooks, the property owners association was established in 1926. The clubhouse was built in 1929.

"It wasn't built by any particular company or anything," Gorz said. She said association members built it.

Many members of the association hail from the Chicago area. In fact, Koval and Searles are from that area themselves, and although Gorz is originally from Pittsburgh, she lived in Chicago before moving to Como in the 1990s.

Which makes sense, considering — as Searles and Gorz said — that in the '20s, people could own lots in Lake Como if they bought a newspaper subscription in Chicago.

Now, they say the kids may not dance much these days, but the clubhouse is still as popular as it was.

It would appear the adults who danced as kids aren't sitting anything out. Gorz said the adult dances held by the association — the last one was Saturday night — are still popular.

The clubhouse also is frequently used for weddings, she said. Searles said funerals, too.

"From May to August, it's busy, mostly during weekends," he said.

Searles said one challenge for the association is to find someone to run the clubhouse full time.

"It's run by a bunch of volunteers, basically," he said. "We're still trying to, in the near future, get a full-time clubhouse manager."

The catch is the association is operating on a slim budget, he said.

Searles added he hopes the association is able to come up with a plan and have a manager in place by next spring. As for the beauty queen contests, well, who's to say if that will remain history?

On Aug. 27, after they were interviewed, Bromeland showed Gorz a page from one of the yearbooks. They were talking about the beauty queen contests, trying to decide when they began.

"We should do these contests again," Bromeland said.

"Yeah," said Gorz, "we should."

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